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Older cabaret fans, wherever in the UK they hail from, will have heard of the iconic Batley Variety Club in West Yorkshire. The venue was closed long ago, but it traded as The Frontier night club long after, under new owners. Eventually the building, which stands on the main Bradford Road in the mill town of Batley, long since ceased to be an entertainment venue and nowadays a gym and one or two other smaller business concerns trade from there. Recently the venue was awarded a blue plaque as a historical marker and Yorkshire comedian Billy Pearce, who has many links to the venue, was on hand for the unveiling. Mark Ritchie writes.

As hard as it is to believe, I used to know James (Jimmy) Corrigan for a while, when he made an ultimately doomed attempt to open a new cabaret venue in Wakefield back in the late 1980’s. By then the type of customers who made their special nights out in variety club venues such as The Fiesta or Bailey’s chain of cabaret clubs, or Wakefield Theatre club, had long since moved on. The variety clubs tumbled domino-like into closure at that time, resulting in no-one from a Clubland or Variety background being offered telly anymore. Once the alumni of the student union body took over the small-screen decision making, there were no crowd-pulling names remaining, who wanted to work in such surroundings, or indeed possessed the grounding to do so.
The afore mentioned Mr Corrigan was the trail-blazer when he opened Batley Variety Club back in 1967, on the site of a former sewage works. During his time at the club Corrigan, who came from Showmen and Fairground amusements stock, invited many of the biggest stars on the planet to appear in Batley, from Shirley Bassey and Eartha Kitt to Louis Armstrong and Neil Sedaka, who was on-stage the first time I ever visited the venue. They and other show business legends such as Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper and so many others all appeared there and I remember being a truly gobsmacked teenager during my time in the audience at the Sedaka show. The surroundings and the style of the place was on a scale that, at that time, working people had never seen before and I vowed that someday, with stage aspirations of my own, I would be hired to be on that great stage myself one day. Sadly, for me at least, I never made it, but many who did grace the stage at Batley Variety club gathered for the recent ceremony which was organised by Corrigan’s former assistant Maureen Prest.
On the big day I noticed that comedian Bernie Clifton was also present at the unveiling. I am sorry to say I do not know Bernie but, as soon as I saw him in attendance, my mind immediately wondered right back to my first visit to Batley and the Neil Sedaka show when a relatively young Bernie Clifton was the Compere at my very first magical variety club night out all those years ago.
Now those were the days to be in show business- when there were still venues who knew how to put on a real show!

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